Tour de force of choral singing

Fraser Wilson, musical director of Albion choir, who is organising a music event to celebrate the Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire

Fraser Wilson, musical director of Albion choir, who is organising a music event to celebrate the Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire

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Sheffield will serenade the Tour de France in one of the opening events of the 100 Days Yorkshire Festival celebrating the culture of the county hosting the start of the world’s largest annual sporting event.

In the Millennium Gallery on Sunday a massed choir of singers from across the city will perform a concert to celebrate the strength and colour of singing in Yorkshire and the musical tradition of “these islands” –Britain and Ireland.

It is being masterminded by Fraser Wilson, artistic director of choral group Albion, and will include traditional tunes such as Scarborough Fair, Greensleeves and Jerusalem, sung in new vocal arrangements that the group have made their own.

There will be 75 singers from nine choral groups in Sheffield. “What’s great is the sheer range of singing conventions they represent from such long-standing institutions as Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and the Oratorio Chorus to Vivacity who sing off copy (that’s to say they don’t use sheet music),” says Wilson.

“Other songs will include Early One Morning which has been with me all my life, I remember my mother singing it to me when I was in my rocking chair, and a new setting of Yeats’ He Wishes for the Cloth of Heaven.

“It is either new arrangements of existing tunes or text that I have set to music,” he explains.

The ensemble will get together on the day only a couple of hours before the concert at 6.30pm.

“We have distributed the arrangements by sheet music or Mp3 and that will be a big departure for some people and a challenge. On the day there will be no conductor or sheet music. If you take that away you can achieve more direct type of connection with the audience.

“And to add to the sense of spontaneity I am telling people the music but not the order they will be sung. I think it is so powerful when you hear a piece die away and then you hear something else start out of the silence.

“This will create a wonderful live atmosphere, surrounding the audience with song.”

Though the essence is the live performance leading sound engineer Shaun Trotter will be making a recording which they are hoping will be broadcast between now and July

Sheffield’s Choral Celebration was commssioned with Arts Council England funding.